Can good acting make a film? Quite often it can. Dirty is a prime example of a film ending up better than it deserves to be by the powerful performance of a few good actors. Amando Sancho (Collins, Jr.) is an ex-gang kid from the mean streets of L.A. He thinks his street smarts and credibility can be an asset on the police force. Unfortunately we will never know, because he is partnered with corrupt cop Salim Adel (Gooding, Jr.). Both appear to require abject lessons in morality and loyalty, lessons that come too…late to be of any true value.
To say this is a disturbing film is putting it quite mildly. If you are at all sensitive to racial epithets being thrown about in casual fashion, this is not a film you want to view. If the depiction of cops as basically all corrupt with a few good eggs is offensive, this film will offend. It is a tragedy that the entire force is portrayed in these negative terms. We get no indication that there’s a clean cop in the film. This film is not so much about doing what’s right or not. The real question here is what is right or wrong. This is a gritty, stark world that reminds us in many ways of Vic Mackey and the Shield’s hopeless universe. The stark difference is that Adel has no respect for anyone. There is no distinction between the good guys and the bad guys. Mackey, at least, appears to believe he’s doing good. Adel simply doesn’t care. On the other hand, Sancho is more swept up with events. He aware of the ghosts that this kind of a life creates. This “day in the life” tale is all about the lack of redemption. I found it to be a pessimistic, dim view of society. While some might claim that perhaps this is reality at its core, what value is a film that has no hope at all? What good is a morality tale if there is no moral? The film is entirely too self-indulgent and a waste of some fine actors.
Dirty is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1. There is a bit of grain, which is likely a style statement much as it is with The Shield. Otherwise the print is quite impressive. Most of the images are rather dark so that color is relatively subdued; however, you will fine above average definition buried in the gritty look. Black levels are sharp. Compression artifacts are the only major flaw in an otherwise nicely done transfer.
Can you say loud? This 5.1 Dolby Digital mix delivers sound, but it is misplaced. The Rap source music comes booming from the sound field while dialogue and ambient are left often unintelligible at times. Looking at the extras, there is no doubt that the urban music was considered a vital part of the film. Make a music video. Don’t waste two hours of our lives with a few music videos surrounded by a half a story. Your subs will pound during the music. When the sound field is left to stand without the music, there are some fine moments.There is an audio commentary. Chris Fisher joins cinematographer Eliot Rockett in a very subdued commentary. They tend to talk too much about theme direction. At one point they give some great advice… Not. “Drive through L.A. and just get out anywhere and start walking around.” Hey why not?
There are 7 deleted scenes. You have to access them separately. They are bordered in time code. Mostly they add little to the film. In one case, however, there is a scene featuring a couple abused by the officers before they had that encounter. It shows even these victims in a less than noble light. The last scene shows Pedro the chihuahua get it.“Getting Dirty” is the typical behind the scenes documentary stuff. I found it more than a little disturbing to hear Collins describe the film as an accurate representation of reality.“Skateboarding/Break Dancing Featurette” is a 4 minute music video highlighting the stunts and choreography of the film.“Chump” is a music video by Oh-No. At least this 3 minute feature is really what the film is all about in true MTV fashion.
Boiled down, this is a street film. Beyond the colorful language and equally colorful characters, there is tremendous potential. Sadly, this potential never materializes. The real problem is, there isn’t a point in the entire film where I cared about any of these guys. None of them have any redeeming qualities. A great buildup that never pays off. Perhaps the filmmakers should have considered an attempt “to put the brains back in”.
Special Features List
- Audio commentary by writer/director Chris Fisher and director of photography Eliot Rockett
- “Gettin’ Dirty” featurette on the Dirty premiere
- Skateboarding/breakdancing featurette
- Deleted scenes
- “Chump” music video